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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Written By: Werner 


C-clamp (1) 

Hots of clamps... 
Carpenter's squared) 
• Drill bits (1) 
Electric drill (1) 

Jiqsaw copina saw or scroll saw (1) 
Wire cutters (1) 
electric router (1) 
orbital sander (1) 
router bits (1) 


1/8 inch Luan plywood (10 sheets) 
Galvanized screws (6 pounds) 
Titebond 3 exterior wood qlue (3 aallons) 
Elastomeric roofing paint (2 gallons) 
Piano hinges (24 feet) 

Plexiqlas or Lexan (1) 

ids for windows 
Propane stove (1) 
cooler of appropriate capacity (1) 

Door latches (2) 

one for or door 


Well, I am new to this, although I have built a couple of airplanes, worked on flight testing as 
a structures tech, and specialized in composites. I decided to use the "original composite," 
plywood (which happens to be the cheapest, too), to build a compact camper. It all started 
on a trip to Lake McConaughy in Nebraska. We were lured by a friend who had a sailboat 
with the promise of a nice lake with sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and a nice camping 
site. Everything was true but the wind, the frogs, the huge biting flies, and a massive 
category-five thunderstorm that soaked us inside the tent. My wife said that she had had it 
with the tent and unless I found something else to camp in, she was out. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Enter the Internet. I needed something like a popup camper... hmm... search, search... wait, 
what was that? A popup camper... hmm, looks cool, a little small... I can make it a little 
different, for the three of us... I may be able to pull that with the car I have... 

Here begins the story: 

First, with my helpful neighbour (he is a veteran of Craigslist) I found a dilapidated popup 
camper. The thing towed nice, but (caveat emptor) when I removed the siding to inspect it, it 
just fell apart like a deck of cards. That made it easy; tear the whole thing apart and sell the 
metal to fund some of the new materials. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 1 — Teardrop Camper Trailer 

• First, I found an old popup trailer 
very cheap.... 

• The old popup camper was 
dismantled and some parts were 
recycled. I got some money from 
the old aluminum siding and 
stainless steel lifting mechanism. 

• The frame was power-sanded, first 
with a rotary wire brush and then 
with 80-grit sandpaper. Then it was 
painted with Rust-Oleum rust 
preventative, and finally covered 
with Rust-Oleum black paint. 

Step 2 

• Then I made a frame with 2x4 pine 
studs, with 1/8-inch Luan plywood 
at the bottom and 1/2-inch plywood 
on top. I painted it with elastomeric 
paint so moisture cannot damage 
the wood, and inserted 1.5-inch 
insulation foam inside the frame. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 
Step 3 

1 After that, I glued and screwed on a 
1/2-inch birch plywood floor, then 
painted it with polyurethane paint 
and covered it with some vinyl 

1 The floor is bolted to the frame with 
sixteen 1/2-inch hardened bolts 
with nylon lock nuts and safety 
washers. You don't want it to move 

1 Before I installed the floor, I ran all 
the electrical wiring for the trailer 
lights and battery charging so I 
didn't have to crawl underneath to 

Step 4 

• After that, I made a template. Be 
creative, people... cardboard works 
fine...hee hee hee... 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 5 

• I made the walls following the outline of the cardboard template. Note that these are fit 
flush, so that later I can skin them with 1/8-inch Luan plywood and insulate the walls. 

• All the wood used was recycled from construction sites. If you ask, they are more than 
happy to let you rescue wood from the refuse bins because they have to pay by weight to 
haul it away. 

Step 6 

• After the walls were built, I attached them to the base frame with eight 1/2-inch hardened 
steel lag bolts per side. 

• Make sure the walls are aligned to the frame and vertical, so you don't have problems 
during skinning. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 7 

• I installed interior skins and painted them with elastomeric roofing paint, to prevent dry rot. 
It will last for a long time. 

• I used Titebond 3 exterior wood glue and brass brads to secure the plywood to the frame. 
Once the glue is dry, the structure is amazingly solid. 

• Note the 2x2 pine studs used along the curve. They are crucial to making the plywood 
skins hold their shape. 

Step 8 

• Next I installed the aft bulkhead, insulated with 1.5-inch styrofoam. 

• The diagonal members maintain the rigidity of the box, so it doesn't flex and deform the 
camper shell. 

• Then the bulkhead was covered with 1/4-inch Luan plywood glued and nailed with brass 

• The bulkhead was attached with galvanized 2.5-inch deck screws through pocket holes (a 
Kreg jig works well here). 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 9 

• Install your electrical wiring before installing the insulation, so you don't have to damage 
the insulation later. Insulation is installed before the skinning. 

• The sides were routed with a flush router bit (the ones with the little bearing on the tip) to 
cut fast and nicely the shape of the plywood skins. That way I didn't have to use a belt 
sander for several hours to do the same thing. 

Step 10 

i After I ran the wiring for outlets and lights on the upper skin, I proceeded to install the 
exterior skins and painted them with a liberal amount of exterior-rated polyurethane 
varnish to seal the wood. 

* The sealing is very important to prevent moisture from entering the plywood and 
delaminating the structure. Make sure you start with 50/50 diluted polyurethane and 
mineral spirits, to soak the plywood very well, then paint it liberally until you cannot feel 
the wood grain. Sand between coats with 120- to 180-grit sandpaper. Some people prefer 
clear penetrating epoxy resin, but I went the cheap way. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 11 

• Then proceeded to build a "hatch" for the kitchen. I would recommend using oak as there 
may be a possibility of having the plywood skin "pulling" the frame and deforming it. Just 
take your time. 

• The ribs were made from 3/4" birch plywood, with horizontal pine board reinforcements, 
and the hatch was covered with 1/4-inch Luan plywood. 

Step 12 

The windows were made with discarded 3/8-inch plexiglass set on routed frames made of 
3/4-inch thick plywood. I set them with silicone and fastened them to the frame with plastic 
shims (so the windows don't rattle themselves loose on the road). 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 13 

• Once the clamshell was made, I needed to attach it to the roof using piano hinges. The 
piano hinges are on the top side so that the hatch opens like a trunk. 

Step 14 

• After the hatch was attached (I used a couple of gas springs to help open it and keep it 
open when in use) I set up the kitchen layout with everything I needed to make it 
comfortable on long trips. 

• The two wires on the right side of the hatch wall are the wiring for the fan, lights and 
switches. I had to run two 3-wire circuits because the lights and the fan are two separate 
circuits controlled by two different circuit breakers. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 15 

• Inside I set up a "bunk bed" over the wheel wells. It has plenty of storage space for a 
catalytic heater, voltage inverter, and blankets and clothing. 

• The roof vent is very important. Make sure it's about 14.25 inches per side, so the vents 
can fit. 

Step 16 

• The kitchen has a couple of drawers and one retractable drawer for the cooler. The A 
stove-with-oven came handy; it was rescued from a derelict camper. It is gas- 

• The blue container at the right is a six-gallon water container, needed for washing and 
drinking/cooking water. 

• My wife made me promise to write that SHE was the one who came up with the idea of the 
stainless steel bowl as a sink. "My wife had the excellent idea of using a nice stainless 
steel kitchen bowl converted to a sink." ;) 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 17 

• The interior was first painted thoroughly with exterior-rated polyurethane varnish, then 
sanded with 180-grit sandpaper, finished with acrylic paint, and decorated by my wife. She 
was the one who made the curtains and chose the futon covers for the foam mattresses. 
They keep weight low, and homemade fixtures make it a little more personal. 

• The light switch plate has three switches; two for the lights and the third (red) for the vent 
fan. The lights are LEDs, which use less electricity, and they last (theoretically) for 
100,000 hours. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 18 

• I have found that a powered vent is crucial if you want to sleep comfy. It creates a breeze 
that will take away some "camping smells." The power panel was made with aluminum, 
and contains a power inverter, a 110-volt outlet and a couple of 12-volt outlets. Very useful 
if you want to use electrical appliances, as long as they don't draw excessive power. 

• If you decide to build a trailer like this on an old trailer frame, make sure to clean and 
inspect the trailer's wheel bearings. If they look worn, discolored or pitted, replace them. 
Always check your vehicle's towing limits and install electric trailer brakes if needed. 
Inspect your wheels and make sure they are roadworthy. There is nothing worse than 
having a wheel incident on the highway or away from civilization. Always check tire 
pressures before any trip and make sure your tow hitch and ball are in sound mechanical 

• Always check your trailer lights before attempting to travel. Having no lights at night can 
lead to serious accidents. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 19 

• The final trailer turned out excellent. We have gone camping several times and slept like 
babies. The measurements on this one are about 6x10 feet, 74.5 inches wide inside, and 
we sleep on the lateral axis of the trailer. The foam mattresses measure 74.5 x 58 inches 
for the main one and 74.5 x 28 inches for the one over the wheel wells. 

• As a rule, for safety and stability, the tongue weight should be between 10% and 15% of 
the total trailer weight. More than that and you can have "fish-tailing" and lose control of 
your trailer; less than 10% and the trailer could detach from your vehicle, or you could 
have problems with directional stability. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 20 

• The power inverter / battery control box was homemade. I used a 4-amp 120VAC to 9VAC 
step-down transformer, with a diode rectifier bridge and a capacitor to absorb the peaks. 
This gave me a clean 12VDC power supply. It has a toggle switch (220-volt rated) to 
switch between external power and battery power. The center position is "off." 

• The hatch lights are very cheap closet LED lights. They use 2 AA batteries and are the 
push-on/push-off type so I don't have to fumble trying to find the switch in the dark. 

• It has a pop-up breaker for every circuit; 3-amp for the lights, 7-armp for the power inverter 
and a 10-amp for the external power. Loads are light and I ran everything with 12AWG 
nylon-shielded multiple-strand copper wire, so there is no risk of getting a short circuit. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 21 

• The stove works very well, but in high-wind situations it may need a wind shield. 

• I used storm-screen latches to keep the drawers and cabinet doors from opening on the 
road and spilling stuff all over the kitchen (especially on rough roads). 

• The main latch is made with a modified garage door latch. I inverted the mechanism to 
make it "normally closed." 

Step 22 

• I used vinyl banner material to make the hinge area waterproof and keep water from 
entering the kitchen area. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 23 

• I made the entrance with a double door because I planned on it becoming a "multipurpose 
trailer." When the two doors are open, I can put my tool box inside the camper for 

• The shelf works very well for holding a small laptop, DVD player or a small heater. It has a 
snap to keep it closed when not in use, and a couple of small multipurpose canvas bags to 
keep small items like flashlights, toiletries, bug repellant, keys, etc. 

Step 24 


• The secondary door has a couple of edge door latches that keep it "normally closed." 

• The window has a couple of old-style window latches. They are low-profile so they don't 
protrude and poke people. 

• The trailer tongue holds the battery box and the propane bottle. The gas line and battery 
wires run parallel under the trailer, separated by at least 8 inches for safety. 

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Teardrop Camper Trailer 

Step 25 

• At last, a good camping site, and peace all around. 

• Just beware of the chipmunks. ..they are bold. 

• I have tested the trailer at very low temperatures (-10 Fahrenheit) and with a small 
catalytic heater it was very comfortable. Not that you would like to camp in that kind of 
weather, but the insulation made it a great "emergency shelter." 

This project can take some time depending on your skills, work space, weather, and time 
availability. Make sure you find a design that fits your needs, and make sure you follow safety 
rules around power tools. Fingers don't grow back. 

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